February 17, 2003


Pop Strife: Can there be a conservative reclamation of popular music? (Mark Gauvreau Judge, February 14, 2003, Claremont Institute)
Try to identify the source of the following quotation:

"I'm frustrated by what I hear [in popular music]. Maybe it's not meant for me. Personally, I'm way too bright for a lot of the hip-hop lyrics to affect. I'm much too smart to think that jewelry or how cool I am is really going to change much about my personality. If you're dumb enough that it entertains you, have a great time. But I am seeking more than that."

Bill Bennett? Michael Medved? Actually it's Tom Petty, the craggy middle-aged rock musician, interviewed in Rolling Stone last Fall. Petty is barking mad these days. He thinks most radio stinks and pop music is terrible, too often delivered by pubescent girls made up to look like street walkers. "It's disgusting," Petty grunts. "It's not just pop music, it's fashion, it's TV, it's advertising, it's every element of our culture. Young women are not being respected, children aren't being respected. Why are we creating a country of child molesters? Could it be that we're dressing up nine-year-old women to look sexy?"

Because God loves irony so much, Petty's words appeared the very same issue that featured a bare-naked Christina Aguilera on the cover. Not long ago, Aguilera was a teen pop singer who worked for Disney. These days she's trying to maintain her position in rock's pecking order by defining herself down.

Petty's words reflect something that I've been anticipating for quite some time —a conservative reclamation of popular music. Since the 1960s, the countercultural Left has had a stranglehold on pop music—or rather, a stranglehold on the conception of what popular music is supposed to be about. For almost 40 years now, we've been told constantly that "It's all about rebellion," despite the fact that the music of the Beatles and Elvis had more in common with swing and Tin Pan Alley than punk and rap. But, no, the received wisdom is that pop is about annoying parents, clearing rooms, and, of course, sex.

In fact, music is about sound.

If pop is made by and marketed to the young and the young are, by definition, inexperienced and ignorant, why would we ever expect their music to become predominantly conservative? What's important from a conservative perspective is to point out that most of it's garbage and shouldn't be taken seriously--which is why so many on the Right improbably appreciated the punk rock phenomenon, the ultimate in puncturing pretensions. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 17, 2003 7:37 PM

So, what is conservative music? Palestrina?


Can you dance to it?

Posted by: Harry at February 17, 2003 10:18 PM

Sure...conservatives in the punk rock movement. Noted conservative bands like the Sex Pistols come to mind.

Noel Erinjeri

Posted by: Noel Erinjeri at February 17, 2003 11:21 PM


The Pistols are an excellent example. If you recall the early 70s--the Beatles comparing themselves to Jesus, concept albums, ELP playing classical tunes on MOOG synthesizers, etc.--then along came a few pea-brains who couldn't even play instruments, ripping out sub 3 minute tunes again. They were Martin Luther-like.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2003 11:42 PM


I like Palestrina, but I'll go as late as Bach. Once he was done it all became rather pointless.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2003 11:43 PM

Other reasons conversatives like punk: (1) It has a good beat and you can dance to it. Seriously. (2) Punk is resilient, refreshing, individualistic, and full of energy and vitality. Is there anything more American?

As an aside, radio deregulation is a big cause of the crappiness of music right now. Big stations are all owned by a few big companies. I've been listening to streaming college radio lately (e.g., KRUI out of Iowa City) and have been very happy.

Posted by: EO at February 18, 2003 2:27 AM

The high point of recent campaign history had to be Alan Keyes diving into a mosh pit.

Posted by: oj at February 18, 2003 8:02 AM

Some friends have started a 100-watt LP FM station, now on the air for nearly a year. As Gilbert Shelton said about Wonder Warthog, not only the best of the 60s, 70s and 80s. And I still have my mint LP of The Electric Prunes Mass in F Minor.

Posted by: Harry at February 18, 2003 1:49 PM